Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph
 
     


Solrun Hoaas

 

From the filmmaker's scrapbook

 
 
The Priestess/The Storekeeper
(Solrun at far right)

Editing

Like any filmmaker, I will edit for length, to achieve focus and coherence, or present a certain impression or idea that I want to convey. In so doing I take a risk and my cuts are subject to my conditioning. We cannot be one hundred percent sure that we are not doing someone an injustice when taking their words out of context in a lengthy conversation.

One of my favorite interviews in my new film Rushing to Sunshine is the fisherman who says about the media "They always take out a little and put back a little. If there weren't little lies added, people wouldn't read it. That's why they have the editing and all that."

In using it I am questioning my own practice as much as commenting on the media's handling of the West Sea incident in June 1999.

Pyongyang Diaries is structured as a filmmaker's journey of discovery and inquiry. It uses footage from two trips, two years apart, but not chronologically (as I do in the new film Rushing to Sunshine). The opening trainride is from the second trip in 1996. The departure again by train is from the first in '94. The diary gives clues to this and dates throughout where the timeframe is particularly important.

Excerpt from "On Film as Fragments", an article published in The Journal of Design Culture and Criticism, (in Korean) Seoul, No. 05, 2001 after the screening of Pyongyang Diaries in the Pusan International Contemporary Art Festival (PICAF 2000).


Aya
 

was produced in 1990 by Solrun Hoaas and Denise Patience for Goshu Films Pty. Ltd. with funding from the Australian Film Finance Corporation, Film Victoria, Bandai Co., and Ronin Films.

Theatrical release: Australia & Japan. TV sales include: Encore Pay TV,

Channel 7 (but to date no broadcast), Channel Four (U.K.), Japan, Norway, Hbo-Asia 2nd Ch., Asia SAT1, China, Singapore, Ireland, Malaysia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Thailand, Cable for Latin-Am. and Eastern Europe.

It screened in several international film festivals, including:
Montreal (Competition), Toronto, Torino (competition), Hof, Brisbane, Hawaii, Gøteborg, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Troia, Verona, Madras.

Aya received six Australian Film Institute Award nominations, including Best Actress, but also elicited highly polarized responses in Australia.

Aya was the second feature film produced in Australia with an Asian woman in a leading role.


Some excerpts from festival catalogues and press:

"A delightful tale of transculturation and self-preservation, Aya offers an important perspective on representing confrontations of race, tradition and personal aspirations."

"Contemporary World Cinema" (catalogue entry, Toronto) by Helga Stephenson, 1990, (p.140)

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"The Meek Ones

 
 
Aya

Japanese women [....] are portrayed in western cinema as gentle, chaste and elegant - an approach which has a kind of fairytale-like nostalgia about it, but which also conveys a lack of self-reliant individuality and in this sense is faintly derogatory. [........]

The Australian film Aya (l991) which broke away from these stereotypes and pointed the way to a new direction deserves to be noted. In the film Eri Ishida plays a Japanese woman who marries an Australian and settles down in Australia. Charming, devoted and loving though she is, she is not overly dependent on the man she loves, and if things don't work out it is evident that she can divorce her husband and start a business. She is, in short, an ordinary woman found anywhere, portrayed attractively and above all, with realism."

"Japan changes but stereotypes remain" by Tadao Sato, Cinemaya No. 17-18, 1992-93 (p. 63).

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"Solrun Hoaas gives us the brief exchanges that must carry the weight of the partners' emotions, the gestures that take over when language fails and the silences that are the most eloquent of all.

She is quite perceptive about the way such marriage works. Unlike other directors who have attempted films about bicultural couples and got only one partner really right (see Alan Parker's Come See the Paradise). Hoaas knows both sides of the cultural equation. [....}

By the end of the film, we not only like Aya, with her gutsy charm, but feel that we know her. She is a sister to the Japanese woman we met in a small Ohio town, growing kyuri in her back yard, showing us the kokeshi doll collection in her living room and talking with pride about the two all-American kids she has raised. She is at once a very typical Japanese and a uniquely international individual."

"Aya views a cultural chasm" by Mark Schilling, The Japan Times, February 11, 1992.

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Aya

"The subject matter is dealt with seriously, respectfully and sympathetically, but the result is curiously unaffecting. Aya is at the centre of almost every sequence, but she remains more like a shadow than a character, physically present but emotionally remote. Things happen to her, but the film never manages to take us inside her experience of them."

"The lonely bride who married an alien culture" by Tom Ryan, The Sunday Age, 20 October 1991.

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"A compelling love story with complex emotional multi-layered performances, enhanced by beautiful and sensitive images; Roger Mason's memorable, haunting score uses repetitive phrases to portray the complexities of both Japanese and western culture."

"Aya" by Lousie Keller, Moving Pictures International, 25 July 1991.

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"Aya works through a series of pessimisms to come to its ultimate optimistic conclusion. Its compression of more than two decades of her life into 95 minutes of screen time makes for a somewhat staccato structure that is remarkable for the way in which Hoaas has distilled from each episode a statement that advances the drama and augments the film-goer's involvement with Aya to make the film so rewarding."

"An ultimately optimistic ending" by Dougal MacDonald, The Canberra Times, May 2, 1992.


Personal perspectives from different stages in a film practice
 
 
In Search of the Japanese

Excerpt from a speech on a panel of Australian and Japanese women artists, "Continuum 1985", Melbourne.

[....introduction]

"I spent ten years of my childhood in Japan, but I grew up as a typical Kobe gaijin, a foreigner living in the international port city of Kobe, never learning Japanese in School, but only basic spoken Japanese, and spending much of my time in an international environment. Yet surrounding me was every aspect of Japanese culture from the ofuro bath and tatami floor in a Swiss-style mansion to the constant exchanges of gifts and ingrained sense of reciprocity in social relationships. These things were normal and natural, as were the plastic food replicas in the restaurants or the crowded trains, and never cause for alarm, categorization into Western or Japanese, or any sense of 'otherness'.

I would sneak off to see American or French movies, and had a passion for drawing fashions and writing poetry and diaries, and in my Senior year in High School (Canadian Academy) discovered theatre, but we were doing inane British or American comedies. Then I had a nisei (second generation Japanese American) English teacher from New York who had come back to discover his roots. He took us to Kabuki for the first time and it blew my mind. He had us write haiku and poems on 'belling deer' and 'morning glories'. Then fed up with our ignorance and puritanism, he ran away from school and found a music and dance teacher in Kyushu. I worshipped him. Before that my awareness of Japanese art had been confined to flower arrangement and Buddhist art in neighborhood temples, yet I was constantly surrounded by it in the everyday - packaging and presentation, architecture...

Last year I spent some time writing a partly autobiographical script and sorting out some of these early influences on my perception. This was partly prompted by comments I have often had that there is something very Japanese about my films, aside from the content.

There are two things in particular that struck me:

One was that I was constantly returning to a disjunction between sound and picture in the script, even though I had not thought consciously of using non-sync sound, as I had done in my six first films because I was filming entirely alone. And yet in scripting there was a split between the content of image and that of the diary voice-over, setting up a tension between the two. In the script it was an expression of dislocation, or incongruousness: the Norwegian family and American influenced school life reflected in the diary against the images of Japan or current events of the time on the other: a sense of being there but not there at all, and yet together they were an experience of post-war Japan of the fifties.

 
 
Effacement

This disjunction between sound and image occurs in Effacement, a film about a Noh mask maker, where the sounds from each stage of the wood carving are heard at a different time from when seen in the picture, but every stage has been seen, thus creating an echoing effect.

I made an early film on Judith Wright and someone commented that it had something Japanese about it. I couldn't work that out. A film about an Australian poet in her bush environment. Other than that Judith's daughter who lives in Kyoto and is an expert on the poetry of Miyazawa Kenji, had said she had to have orange or saffron curtains because of being partly Buddhist, I couldn't see it.

But there is in that film as in other documentaries a tendency to forego the linear narrative in documentary and search for poetry as a model for documentary, using repetitions of images, or ones that have an echoing effect, that give a sense of rhymes or rhythms. There are cross-references or 'ghosting' throughout the films. Some prefer to see them as circular in structure.

In the sometimes disconcerting shifts in time and space there may also be an influence of Japanese theatre. When I returned to Japan in 1969 as a graduate student to study theatre, for a while I had a passion for avant garde theatre: those were the early days of Terayama Shuji's Tenjo sajiki, the tent theatre of Kara Juro, and others. My other passion was Noh theatre and masks, which focus on one single strong emotion, and generate a high level of tension, yet a sense of detachment.

Another tendency I am aware of in my work is to search for what I will call a 'pillow image' - similar in some respects to the concept of the 'pillow shot' in Noel Burch's analysis of Ozu. It is an attempt to find the image that provides these echoings and ghosting, cross-references to other parts of the work, or even conjure up associations with something outside it, but images that say it all. In a recent film, Pre-occupied, which I directed for the Victorian Women's Film Unit, it was a final close-up of a child's hand putting yellow leaves into a woman's red sandal. It had no logical explanation.


The Hatoma films

The Hatoma series of four films of two hours have been screened as one program at the Longford Cinema (Melbourne), Image Forum (No. 337, 21-24 June, 1984, Tokyo) and the Hawaii International Film Festival 1990. The following article or paper was found without any name of author or publication/presentation data in the scrapbook. It was probably written after Sacred Vandals was screened in the Film and History Conference, Melbourne in 1984 or the RAI Anthropological Film Festival in London in 1985. If anyone recognizes the article and can enlighten me about the author and source, please contact me. Here is an excerpt. SH

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Waiting for Water

The Hatoma Films of Solrun Hoaas

Film is often seen as a window onto the world, and this is often the justification for using film in the educational context. Perhaps it is this view of film which leads to a preference for non fiction film over fiction film in teaching. However, film is not a transparent representation of the world but a construction which embodies a series of codes and conventions which carry with them one or more points of view. In using film in either teaching or research it is necessary to be sensitive to the way in which points of view are encoded into the film. This is the case with Waiting for Water, The Priestess/The Storekeeper and Sacred Vandals. [......]

On viewing the films the style is immediately striking, and challenges our way of seeing and representing other cultures. Hoaas has said "to believe one can ever become a part of another culture when filming it, is supremely naive" and the style of the films reflects this view. While the films each have some stylistic differences they have a number of features in common. In common with many non fiction films there is no pretense of being able to give an omniscient view of the culture being filmed. Nor do the films make any attempt to hide their constructed nature. In fact the film maker signals in a number of ways that what is being shown is a very personal view of the people and events being filmed. Waiting for Water has a diary-like voice-over narration. This narration focuses as much upon the responses of the diarist to the events, as upon an explication of the events. There are elements of this diary approach in Sacred Vandals as well. In each of the films there are at least three levels of "narration". There is the voice over narration by the film maker (...) which explains, or comments upon, events. Functioning as another form of narration are snatches of conversation between Hoaas and the women, or between the women themselves, recorded at the time of the action. A third level of narration is supplied by brief fragments of conversation between Hoaas and the women recorded later (as evidenced by a different quality in the sound) and forming a commentary on what is seen in the visuals......"


Sorun Hoaas, March 2005.

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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis